Department launches catch-up scheme & INTO raises principal concerns with officials

The Department of Education has today published a €50million scheme to provide additional funding to schools to hire part-time, qualified teachers to support pupils who have learning deficits as a result of COVID-19.

A new programme called Covid Learning and Support Scheme (CLASS) is being put in place to help schools mitigate the adverse impacts of COVID-19 on pupil/student learning and wellbeing.

The new programme comprises two main elements:

  • The provision of additional teaching hours to schools to support their work in addressing learning loss among pupils/students arising from periods of school closures.
  • Opportunities for schools to share practice which is considered to be most effective in mitigating learning loss among pupils/students.

Reacting to the plans today, INTO General Secretary John Boyle said: 

Covid-19 has brought unprecedented challenges for everyone in our primary and special schools. The INTO has long called for additional resources from the Department of Education to support our schools’ tremendous efforts to help pupils who have faced learning deficits or difficulties as a result of these challenges. Today’s scheme is a welcome development. Schools will be awarded additional teaching hours to recruit part-time qualified teachers to provide additional learning support to those pupils who need it most during the school day. Schools are best placed to assess the needs of their pupils, in line with what we understand will be detailed guidance from the department on the eligibility and operation of the scheme. We welcome the extra supports within the scheme for schools in areas of acute educational disadvantage and for special schools. However, more resources will to be needed and we will continue to seek additional support for schools in the lead up to Budget 2022 next month.”

Please note the following documents published by the Department of Education this afternoon:

Circular to schools re CLASS programme (EV)

Circular to schools re CLASS programme (IV)

Primary CLASS guidance

Scéim CLASS Treoir do Bhunscoileanna agus Scoileanna Speisialta

Concerns of school leaders raised with department and public health officials 

At a meeting with the Department of Education and public health officials this morning, the INTO highlighted the concerns of principals regarding the HSE helpline and area supports for public health risk assessments, testing and contract tracing. On foot of union representations, the department has agreed to ramp up staffing for the principals’ helpline to 110 full-time staff and we will keep the issue under daily review.

A central issue at present is the lack of awareness amongst parents of the expanded list of COVID-19 symptoms, with symptomatic children arriving at schools. INTO reiterated our concern that the department has not done enough to highlight the new symptoms with parents. The department has now agreed to amplify their public messaging. Dr Colm Henry of the HSE stated this afternoon that children who are close contacts of confirmed cases should stay away from school because of the large number of cases that have been identified.

Finally, far too many schools still have not received their C02 monitors. We raised our frustration with departmental and public health officials this morning at the slow delivery of these vital instruments to schools. The department has confirmed that all schools will have received their full complement of monitors by Monday, 20 September. INTO urges any school that has not received their monitors by Monday, 20 September to get in touch with the union directly.